Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dead Ringer by Lisa Scottoline

Bennie Rosato couldn't be better.   Although her law office is struggling a bit financially, she just landed a new client that could end her money worries for years.  She is making a respected name for herself in the Philadelphia courts.  She has great friends and a great life.

Then everything seems to go wrong at once.  Her new account, which had the potential to bring in millions in fees, seems in trouble.  Judges and lawyers who respected her are starting to avoid her.  Her house is broken into and her dog's life endangered.  Then her best client is murdered.

Who could be behind all of these misfortunes?  Could it be Alice, Bennie's twin sister who was given away at birth and who resents Bennie?  She has caused trouble before and Bennie knows the scandalous behavior that has her peers turning away from her has to be Alice pretending to be her.  Is it the most prominent lawyer in town, who is threatened by Bennie's professional success  and who has a reputation for playing hardball?  Or is it David, a gorgeous guy who turned up out of nowhere and worked his way into Bennie's life.

Scottoline has written an engaging mystery.  Readers not only get a puzzle to solve but a look into the internal workings of an independent business, and how lawsuits make their way through the courts from start to finish.  This book is recommended for mystery lovers.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Visiting Tom by Michael Perry

Visiting Tom, Michael Perry's latest memoir, gives readers another view into Perry's rural farm life in Wisconsin.  Perry was a bachelor into his forties, when he met and married Anneliese.  Anneliese had a daughter and they soon had another daughter together.  They have lived on a farm for the past five years surrounded by chickens and pigs, performing the familiar chores that have sustained farmers and their families for generations.  Perry was trained as a nurse, and still goes on EMT runs and works with the firefighters.  He is also often on the road, lecturing about his life and the glories of family and farm life.  But his life and his love is his family and the land they occupy and which sustains them.

This book is organized around two themes.  The main theme is Perry's neighbor, Tom, an octogenarian who farms, welds, keeps bees and in general is one of the handiest men Perry knows.  He and his wife spend a lot of time with Tom and his wife Arlene, soaking up their wisdom and the stories of their life. 

The second theme is Perry's ongoing argument with the local road commissioners, who after years have decided to make a road change.  While it makes an intersection safer according to regulations, it makes the trip up the hill to the Perry farm difficult and sometimes impossible in the winter.  Perry spends over a year protesting the decision and its effects.

Those readers who have encountered Perry below will sink into this book as into a warm comfortable, familiar bed; full of comfort and good cheer.  Those new to his work have a real treat in store as they read of a family that dares to slow down and value the way things used to be, when a family depended on each other and the neighbors that surrounded them.  It is a quintessential feel-good book and readers will enjoy their time visiting with the Perry family.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Skios by Michael Frayn

It's the annual event everyone's been waiting for on the private Greek island of Skios. Nikki, the manager of the prestigious Fred Toppler, has scored a major coup, one that should cement her position as the next Director of the foundation. For the guest lecturer, she has obtained the services of the renowned science management guru, Dr. Norman Wilfred. Rich and famous people are flying in from all over the world, eager to hear the latest nuggets of wisdom from Dr. Wilfred. This will be a major triumph. What could go wrong?

Unfortunately, almost everything. A mixup at the airport has a charming imposter, Oliver Fox, taking Dr. Wilfred's place. He knows nothing about the subject, but his good looks and ingraiting ways disguise that fact. The real Dr. Wilfred is stuck at the villa Fox was to stay at; no suitcase, no phone, no way to remedy his situation. Oh, and there is a naked woman sunning at the pool. Georgia is Nikki's best friend and as it turns out, Oliver's weekend fling. She has no idea what is going on, or where Fox has gone.

Michael Frayn has written a comedic tour-de-force. The plotting on a comedy is so difficult. It must be very tight, moving the reader forward on a froth of laughter before they can stop and apply the logic to the situation that makes it unbelievable. Frayn is a master, and the reader is thoroughly entertained, eagerly reading to see what happens next and how the entire situation is resolved. Skios is longlisted this year for the Mann Booker prize and it is easy to see why. This book is recommended for readers ready for an entertaining read that skewers the upper class and academia.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Broken Harbor by Tana French

This is a big case.  A huge case.  Patrick Spain and his two small children, Emma and Jack, are dead, butchered in their home.  Jenny Spain, the mother, is clinging to life in the hospital.  Who could have murdered this family who seemed to be the golden family who had it all?

The case is assigned to Mick 'Scorcher' Kennedy and his rookie partner, Rich Curran.  It's no surprise that Mick gets the case.  He is the top detective on the squad with the highest solve rate.  He is the consummate professional and Rich can't believe his luck in drawing him as his first partner.

As they investigate, it hardly seems possible.  The perfect family.  Childhood sweethearts who married and had two gorgeous children.  A brand-new house the couple had saved for.  The good life.  But as the surface is scratched, it soon becomes apparent that the good life was in jeopardy.  Pat had lost his job and didn't seem to be able to find another in this recession.  The housing development was dying on the vine, unable to sell the completed houses.  The family had withdrawn from their friends and family.  Pat was on the Internet posting on advice blogs.  Jenny had her defenses firmly in place; a smile that said everything was still perfect.

Even Kennedy is affected by this case.  Before the development, this was a coastside town.  It happened to be the town where his family went each summer for a happy vacation; that is, until the summer that his family's tragedy happened and there were no more happy times.  Can he push aside the past to find justice for the Spain family?

This is Tana French's fourth book in her Dublin Squad series.  Each book focuses not only on a crime but on one of the detectives who solve crime in this location.  The plotting is tight and the reader learns about police procedures.  The psychological characterization rings true, racketing up the suspense in a believable fashion and making this a page-turner.  This book is highly recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Attorney by Steve Martini

In this, the fifth book of Martini's Paul Madriani series, Paul has moved to San Diego to be near his new love, Susan McKay.  Susan is the head of the county's Child Protective Services agency, and they met at a conference about children's rights.  Now they are pitted together in a case that will strain their relationship.

One of Paul's old clients, Jonah Hale, comes to him for help.  Since the first time Paul helped him, Jonah has won a lottery and is now newly rich.  He and his wife continue to live modestly, however, their main focus raising their granddaughter, Amanda.  Amanda's mother has had trouble with drugs for years and the petty crime that surrounds that has landed her in prison so the grandparents have custody.

Now Jessica, the mother, is out of prison and demanding money or she will take her daughter away from the loving grandparents.  Jonah comes to Paul when Amanda is kidnapped.  They are sure Jessica has taken her away, aided by a fiery feminist who makes it her life work to help mothers in custody battles.  Her name is Zo Suade, and she is notorious for using any tactics imaginable to win.

Jonah hires Paul to find Amanda and bring her home.  The stakes are raised when Zo is found murdered, Jonah the top suspect.  The battle shifts to the courtroom where Jonah is charged with first degree murder.  Can Paul free Jonah?  Will the conflict between Jonah's case and Susan's career affect their relationship?

Readers of the Paul Madriani series will welcome this new one.  Those, like this reviewer, who come to the series cold will find that prior knowledge of the characters is not necessary.  This is a satisfying, courtroom and behind the scenes look at the legal profession.  This book is recommended for mystery lovers.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Murder Takes Time by Giacomo Giammatteo

Murder Takes Time is a story of love and betrayal, friendships and deadly enmities.  A group of boys grow up poor in an Italian neighborhood.  Tony is the smartest kid anyone knows.  Suit only has one shirt as his family is so poor and vows to never wear anything but the finest when he is grown.  Bugs gets his name for his ability to catch cockroaches in his tenement apartment; the only thing his father values about him.  Nicky 'The Rat' has a fierce loyalty to his friends.  He gets his nickname from the local mobsters when at the age of six he is taken in by the police for a childhood prank and despite hours of questioning refuses to give up so much as his name, much less his partners in crime.  Together they form a group determined to always be there for each other.

But children grow up.  Tony is a rising star in the Mob, with Suit his constant companion.  Bugs has become a cop, a homicide detective torn between his childhood loyalties and the law.  Nicky, who went to prison rather than give up his friends, has just been released, only to find his long time love married to someone else.  Unable to get work, he soon becomes an enforcer for the Mob.

Now, gruesome murders are happening, and Bugs suspects that Nicky may be behind them.  Can he solve the murders before more occur and find a way to balance his friendships and his work?

Gaimmatteo has written an authentic Italian mobster mystery.  The book is told in the voices of the various characters, allowing the reader to understand the motivations behind their actions.  The plotline is compelling, and the resolution is satisfying.  This book is recommended for mystery lovers.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Win A Trip To Austin, Texas!

AUSTIN – Now in its 10th year of operation, with a growing pool of star literary talent and media personalities, PR by the Book has become a go-to firm in the book publishing industry for innovative publicity campaigns and top-tier media placement.

Founded in 2002 by Marika Flatt, PR by the Book has grown from a one-woman operation to a team of 10, representing everyone from The Berenstain Bears series to Rex Pickett, author of the beloved book-turned-movie, Sideways.

Now, PR by the Book has decided it’s time to share the love. And what better way to do that than to award a trip to the town where it all got started: Austin, Texas?
"Austin has burgeoned into a bustling literary community. When I started in book publicity here in 1997, I’d meet people who would be surprised I wasn’t from New York or Los Angeles,” says Flatt. “Now, when I travel for work and people ask where I’m from and I tell them Austin, the response is something similar to: I adore Austin and what a literary town that is!”

The contest is called "Escape to Austin" and will be a truly one-of-a-kind trip for the lucky winner. The prize package includes round-trip airfare for the winner and a guest, a two-night stay at The Hilton Garden Inn downtown Austin, dinner for two at TRIO in the Four Seasons, a $50 gift certificate to historic Hyde Park Bar & Grill and a couple of bookish perks.

Drawing the likes of Susan Orlean and Chuck Palahniuk, the Texas Book Festival is one of the premiere literary fests in the country. Last year, the festival featured 243 authors and attracted 40,000 attendees. The winner of the "Escape to Austin" contest will be granted two VIP passes to the weekend-long festival October 26-28, as well as a pass to one of TBF's invitation-only author parties.

"We are very excited to partner with PR by the Book for this contest package," says Lidia Agraz, TBF's Executive Director. "We're still early in the talent line-up process, but I can say that this year's festival will offer attendees a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to commune with true literary icons."

To enter "Escape to Austin," contest hopefuls must simply "like" PR by the Book on Facebook and fill out the entry form at The contest runs August 1 – August 31, 2012, and a winner will be selected by September 7 (open to U.S. residents only.)

PR BY THE BOOK is a boutique publicity firm specializing in literary media relations campaigns, publishing consultation, small business publicity, and publicity tours for authors and experts. Our team of seasoned publicists has worked on books in nearly every genre, and with dozens of major publishing houses and small presses. Visit to learn more.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Shalimar The Clown by Salman Rushdie

In Shalimar The Clown, Rushdie takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of the countries of India, Pakistan, modern-day L.A., wartime France, England and Austria and the emotional countries of love, betrayal, passion, jealousy, revenge and retribution.  It is a compelling book that takes over the lives of its readers as they burrow further and further into the tale.

In the beautiful province of Kashmir, a couple falls in love.  Shalimar is the star of the local acrobatic troupe, a clown who can walk the tightrope as if he were walking on air.  His young love and then wife, Boonyi, was the most beautiful and talented dancer.  Although Shalimar was Muslim and Boonyi Hindu, they fell in love and were protected by the villagers, who refused to let religion separate friendships and love. 

Into this idyllic relationship, as always, trouble arrived.  In this case, it happened when Boonyi danced for the American Ambassador, a charming, charismatic man named Max Ophuls.  Their subsequent affair laid into place events that would play out over the next decades.

Salman Rushdie is one of the premier novelists of our time, and I have never been less than mesmerized with any of his books.  His characterizations are so detailed that one feels they know every character.  Each, no matter how small a part they play in the story, are given intricate backgrounds that explain their motivations.  Rushdie's ability to use these characters to explore the age-old themes such as love, jealousy, betrayal, political movements, the movement of nations from one state to another, is unparalleled.  This book is recommended for any reader interested in a great read that will keep them enthralled from start to finish.